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electronic MUSICIAN

AUDIO-TECHNICA AT4047/SV

By Randy Tobin | March 1, 2000

The AT4047/SV is the latest member of Audio-Technica's extensive line of studio microphones. What sets it apart from other Audio-Technica 40-series mics is a transformer-coupled output and an element tuned to sound reminiscent of certain now-vintage Field Effect Transistor (FET) mics introduced in the 1970s. In brief, the 4047 is meant to sound warm compared with its predecessors. The 4047's other distinguishing characteristic is its brushed silver exterior, a departure from the usual black finish of Audio-Technica mics. The mic has a fixed cardioid polar pattern, provides switches for a 10 dB pad and 80 Hz highpass filter, and requires 48V phantom power.

The 4047 comes with a cast-metal, dual-isolation shock-mount and a shock-isolation system that's built into the unit. The mic ships in a plastic case lined with sculpted foam. A slip-on foam windscreen is not included, although a small hole on the shock-mount looks as if it could be used to hold the wire end of a pop screen.

TWO OF A KINDI received two 4047s, which enabled me to evaluate their consistency. When I used both on the same sound source, the results were virtually identical. If my experience is an indication of the model's consistency, you should be able to use a pair of off-the-shelf 4047s for matched stereo applications instead of paying extra for factory-matched pairs.

Over the past 25 years, I've acquired an assortment of microphones chosen for sound quality, specific usage, and reliability. I started with Shure SM57s and progressed to more expensive mics, such as Countryman Isomax ultraminiature condensers, Langevin CR3As, an original AKG C 414, and AKG's Tube-our studio's flagship mic.

Still, I don't buy microphones that often. But I will almost certainly buy an AT4047/SV, if not two of them. Why? Because the first time I used the 4047 side by side with the Tube on a critical track of a male narrator, I was impressed by how similar the two mics sounded. Considering that the Tube cost more than $2,000-12 years ago-and the 4047 has a suggested retail price of $695, that's really saying something.

The only difference in sound that I noticed was that the 4047 did not provide quite as much low end as the Tube. (Initially, as is customary to my way of working, I engaged the low-cut filters on both the console and the mics.) But I compensated for this easily by disengaging the console filter and using the low-cut filter on the mic only. For a mic that is being promoted as warm sounding, the 4047 provides plenty of high end. However, it is not edgy sounding like the AKG C 414 in my collection.

TRUE TO SOURCEOver the course of six weeks, I used the 4047 to record narration, vocals, acoustic guitar, trumpet, trombone, tuba, flute, saxophone, and percussion. In all cases, the mic performed admirably and predictably, producing an uncolored sound that did not vary with the dynamics of the source. We've never used any exotic mic preamps here, just the standard preamps in our Ramsa WR820B analog consoles (we have two of them linked together for 80 inputs), so the mic had to prove itself a worthy contender in rather standard circumstances, and it did.

One of the toughest sources to record well is a vocal ensemble. Using a stereo pair of 4047s, we recorded four singers with the mics placed about 6 feet apart and angled toward the quartet. The mics stood their ground with no annoying artifacts, such as I've heard with other, often more expensive, mics. We also gathered four people in a semicircle around one 4047 for a backup vocal session, and the mic picked up everyone well, with minimal off-axis coloration.

When I used the 4047 alongside the Tube on a solo female vocalist, there was, again, virtually no discernible difference in sonic quality between the two tracks. This is quite remarkable. I've compared several other mics-including some expensive and highly regarded models-with the Tube over the years, and none has come this close to its accuracy and adaptability.

On acoustic guitar, the 4047 sounded full-bodied and clear, without any perceptible mic noise when the sound source was fading to silence. This is a quiet mic with a dynamic range of over 140 dB, and for really loud sources, there's always the 10 dB pad. I put the mic's impressive dynamic range and SPL handling to the test with trumpet, trombone, and saxophone. There was no distortion; the mic reproduced only the natural tone of each instrument exactly as it sounded at the source.

THE GOODSThe dual shock-mount that comes with the 4047 is the best I've ever used. It employs a pair of flat elastic bands to suspend the mic at six points. The ring that holds the bands is isolated and supported at 16 points by tubular, cloth-covered elastics connected to the outermost ring of the mount. Yet despite its beefy construction, the assembly is not huge and unwieldy.

Care is required when routing the mic cables, as the least bit of tension will angle the mic, causing it to touch the metal on the inner ring. Also, when the mic is in the shock-mount, the A-T logo that indicates the front of the mic is hidden from view, so you have to feel for the raised logo between the elastic bands to verify correct orientation. Perhaps Audio-Technica could finish the back screen in a different color to facilitate setup.

On the plus side, the lock nut holds the sturdy shock-mount assembly in place without the aid of pliers or other implements of torture. (How many times have you crunched your wrists while trying to tighten the boom on a microphone stand?)

Sometimes a windscreen is desirable, especially when recording two singers side by side. But generally this is an issue only when large amounts of air are being blown at the mic, a situation that is more common outdoors than in the studio. For those who want one, though, a large, cylindrical foam windscreen, the AT8137, is available for $48.

Actually, I was able to use a windscreen from one of my other mics on the AT4047/SV. But impressively, when I recorded the four singers in a semicircle, I didn't use a windscreen or pop filter and the mic still didn't register unwanted plosives.

LOOK NO FURTHERThe Audio-Technica AT4047/SV is both a serious recording tool and a great bargain. Clearly, Audio-Technica has done its research, and the result is an expensive-sounding microphone at a personal-studio price. I recommend the 4047 as the main mic for any personal or project studio, and it deserves consideration from professional facilities looking to grow their mic collections.

Of course, no words can really describe the sound of a microphone-it is something you must personally experience. I therefore suggest that you get to your local dealer and audition an AT4047/SV. I'm confident it will hold its own alongside similarly priced mics, as well as many costing much more.

Randy Tobin is a composer, musician, producer, engineer, and founder of Theta Sound Studio and Audio Post in Burbank, California. He can be reached at www.thetadata.com/thetasound.

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